The Church in the Seventeenth Century

By H. Daniel-Rops; J. J. Buckingham | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE DOCTRINAL CRISES OF JANSENISM AND QUIETISM

I. A THEOLOGICAL ALLIANCE

AT THE end of summer, 1621, two friends, both priests, met at the college of Sainte-Pulchérie in Louvain. Both had formerly been pupils at the city's university, one of the glories of the Church for nearly two centuries and an important cultural centre made famous by Erasmus, Latomus, Busleyden and Justus Lipsius. The university was also the centre of disputes and brawls, frequently occasioned by theological discussions.

It was a long time since the two friends had left college. One of them had returned to the Flemish city to become president of the college, in other words superior of the seminary. The other had come from Paris, where he resided. The younger was a Dutchman born in 1585, in the village of Accoi near Leerdam. He was lean and gaunt, all bone and muscle; the type of Dutchman whom the Spaniards had found unconquerable in Holland's struggle for independence. He was tall, with a long, slightly aquiline nose and a high brow; his chin jutted out, and his pointed, goatee beard made it seem even longer. His biretta gave him the appearance of a fighting man rather than a man of prayer. His eye was keen, and through the apparently unbroken calm of his features might be glimpsed an occasional flash of subdued storm. Those who knew him well were aware that his imperturbable air concealed intense emotion and a spirited character.

The Dutchman's parents were very poor, but he turned to Holy Orders, following in the footsteps of an uncle on his father's side who had succeeded in becoming Bishop of Ghent and a delegate at the Council of Trent. He had a brilliant career at the university, obtaining a first in literature and philosophy and a mastership in theology. He began by seeking admission to the Society of Jesus, but was rejected for some obscure reason, probably because he was ill-suited by disposition to a life of absolute obedience. Having returned to Louvain after a long absence in France he enjoyed a considerable reputation on account of his learning, piety, eloquence and strong principles. His name was Cornelius Jansen but, in the manner of the Humanists, he used the Latin name Cornelius Jansenius.

The Frenchman, whom Jansenius welcomed with open arms before

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